Fizz on the Soda: Ginger Rogers and Joan Blondell – Episode 9

Episode 9! This month we’re discussing women in showbusiness, focusing on two stars who started out their film careers pounding the stage circuit hoping to make it big. Ginger Rogers and Joan Blondell. He’s a Keeper this month is the wonderful Peter Lorre.

In the 1930’s, Hollywood became expert at creating fantasies for its audiences. Beautiful girls in skimpy costumes. in Busby Berkley designed spectacles singing ‘We’re in the money, we’re in the money’ gave audiences a momentary escape from the greyness and worry of reality. The Great Depression affected all Americans and led to thousands of movie theaters closing and ticket sales plummeted, in saying that Hollywood was still in the business of entertaining people. In 1933 60 million people still went to the movies. Life on the stage was very tough with thousands of girls audtioning and only a handful making it in the pick. Backstage there would be 25 girls to one dressing room, bad lighting, everyone stealing each others make-up, in-fighting and holding off advances from creepy stage managers. Ginger and Joan came up the hard way and by 1933 were two of biggest stars at the time.

Curtain up!

Fizz on the Soda: Ginger Rogers and Joan Blondell – Episode 9 by Any Ladle’s Sweet

Episode 9! This month we’re discussing women in showbusiness, focusing on two stars who started out their film careers pounding the stage circuit hoping to make it big. Ginger Rogers and Joan Blondell. He’s a Keeper this month is the wonderful Peter Lorre. In the 1930’s, Hollywood became expert at creating fantasies for its audiences.

Sources:
42 nd Street (1933) Dir. Lloyd Bacon. [DVD] Warner Bros.

Bawden, J and Miller, R. (2016) ‘Interview with Joan Blondell’ in Conversations with Classic Film Stars: Interviews from Hollywood’s Golden Era. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky.

Blondell, J. (1972) Center Door Fancy. New York: Delacorte Press.

Broadway Bad (1933) Dir. Sidney Lanfield. [YouTube] Warner Bros.

Dames (1934) Dir. Ray Enright & Busby Berkeley. [DVD] Warner Bros.

Der Verlorene ‘The Lost One’ (1951) Dir. Peter Lorre [YouTube] National-Filmverleih.

Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933) Dir. Mervyn LeRoy [DVD] Warner Bros.

Havana Widows (1933) Dir. Ray Enright [DVD] Warner Bros.

Kennedy, M. (2007) Joan Blondell: A Life Between Takes. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.

M (1931) Dir. Fritz Lang [YouTube] Vereinigte Star-Film.

Mad Love (1935) Dir. Karl Freund. [DVD] Metro-Goldwyn- Mayer Studios.

Maltese Falcon (1941) Dir. John Huston [DVD] Warner Bros.

Nightmare Alley (1947) Dir. Edmund Goulding [DVD] 20 th Century Fox.

Professional Sweetheart (1933) Dir. Wiliam A. Seiter [YouTube] RKO.

Stage Door (1937) Dir. Gregory La Cava. [DVD] RKO

Swing Time (1936) Dir. George Stevens [DVD] RKO.

Rogers, G. Ginger: My Story. New York: It Books.

Youngkin, S.D. (2005) The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky.

Gourley, Catherine. (2008) Rosie and Mrs America: Perceptions of Women in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Twenty First Century Books.

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Music excerpt from 42nd St (1933), music and lyrics by Al Dublin and Harry Warren.

Music excerpt from Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933), music and lyrics by Al Dublin and Harry Warren.

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Scene Dwellers – #2 Gold Diggers

#2 Breakfast scene in Gold Diggers of 1933

In a time when most cinema fare restricts women to only 30% of the speaking roles or limits their characterisation to their sexual partnership with men, a Pre-Code film with women headliners offers an oasis in a desert imagination. The breakfast scene in particular allows us to luxuriate in four women commiserating over fortunes turning up like a bad penny. We want to live in Mervyn LeRoy’s scene.

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Roommates Carol King (Joan Blondell), Polly Parker (Ruby Keeler) and Trixie Lorraine (Aline MacMahon) hunker under bed covers at the opening. If you aren’t tempted to run to the courts and change your name to any of the above, what about when Ginger Rogers walks through the door as Fay Fortune? Things happen for women with snappy monikers. We know they’re stand up ladies, with backbone and ambition. Sisters of the flat share linger in bed because food’s scarce. Chorines out of work must stretch their resources. They gripe about hard times, reminisce about when they were flush, when they used to have wads of men’s cash yet now they have only their pyjamas.

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Trixie purloins a bottle of milk from the neighbour’s fire escape but before she can drink it, a knock at the door prompts her to pour it back in the bottle, figuring the tenants next door were wise to her ruse. Instead, Fay Fortune swans in wearing blue sunnies and a stylish frock. Polly calls out her name as she holds the door.

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Fay: Who’d you think it was, the wolf?

Carol: If it was, we’d eat it.

Brilliant retorts and lines abound in this picture. Fay explains the sunnies as an effort to dodge overdue rent questions from the landlord. Although Fay’s tinted specs aren’t rosy, the news she brings certainly elevates the mood in the room. Barney (Ned Sparks) plans to stage a new production. While the prospect of work causes the women to hearten as though a steak dangled from the ceiling, Fay reminds them they require a fashionable dress to persuade Barney for a role in the show. If their cupboards hold more cobwebs than comestibles, a glamorous ensemble proves even more outside their limited resources. Since Fay has the best frock they play a game of chance for it, where they each pick a taxi company to bet on, with the first one that passes by the window declares the winner. Joan Blondell’s Carol wins the dress. As she finishes dressing, her friends marvel at the gossamer effect, telling her to be sure to stand in the sunlight. Armed with a glam frock, she heads out to meet Barney and secure jobs for all of them.

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LeRoy could have spared the Busby Berkeley pageantry (and that creepy baby with the tin opener). If he had just given us the four women chatting about survival tips, we’d be content.

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NEXT >> #3 NICK & NORA
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